One of the first questions everyone asks a potential PR agency is, “do you have experience in (my industry)?” Hiring a PR firm with experience relevant to you is a multifaceted process, and fundamentally, it’s one no one really enjoys. Part of the reason no one enjoys it is every PR agency is slightly different, and it can be hard to determine which is most valuable to your company. But engaging with a PR firm based on their experience is really like letting the tail wag the dog. The question you really want to ask is, “What’s your experience with companies with the same business goals?“. This is especially true in emerging industries and nascent markets. What’s the use of hiring a boutique PR agency with experience in your industry if they do not know how to get you to the next level, whether that’s additional funding, an M/A event, or an IPO event? What you really want is to hire a PR firm with experience in taking you to that next level and help you accomplish your business goals.
There are two or three reasons why ambitious and fast-growing startups initiate PR, and they are all vital business objectives. Ultimately, PR is almost always at the junction of a critical turning point for companies of all stages, from startup to hypergrowth to IPO. And the reason for that is simple: there’s no better asset than a strong, trusted, and well-known brand; brand value can add tens of millions to valuations.
Next Level: Additional Funding
Do investors care about PR? They do, but for different reasons than you might think. Investors want companies that think big, but increasingly do so responsibly. One reason PR is a good investment is you can activate your PR for years after you receive it. A steady stream of PR makes it much easier for a company to grow, and PR provides social proof that helps a company secure traction, and also become an industry leader. Think about the startup founders who have used PR brilliantly to become one of the top providers in their verticals. From Marc Benioff of Salesforce to Richard Branson at Virgin, startup founders who leverage marketing and PR inspire confidence when their thinking is bold and audacious – PR puts audacious thinking on display like no other marketing medium. Finding a PR firm with experience with companies seeking investment could not be more important.
The Right Partners: Mergers and Acquisitions
PR paves the path for mergers and acquisitions; it gives potential buyers and partners an opportunity to learn more about the business in a good way. Plus, PR exposes your brand to more buyers than you could ever find on your own. And the more people you’re exposed to, the more likely you are to find the right partner. Plus, companies at the top of a vertical command a premium.
Whether you need B2B PR or a B2C PR will impact your PR agency choices, particularly if your goal is M/A, but again, that will largely depend on your strategy. Are you using PR to bolster consumer enthusiasm and growth around the product in order to attract more potential buyers, or are you looking for investors who are very specifically looking for opportunities within a particular segment? These are two very different strategies.
Count Down: Pre-IPO PR
Pre IPO is another PR strategy all altogether, and it’s important to have a PR firm that understands the ramp-up and regulatory conditions of an IPO. Whether you need B2B tech PR agency or a consumer tech pr agency, you need a PR agency that has been through the ropes of an IPO. A PR agency with Pre-IPO experience helps you set the stage during those critical 24-36 months before your IPO. While you’ll want an investor relations agency to develop your road show and connect you with the right bankers, your PR team should be working in tandem for positive public relations that analysts will want to see. Since PR is a ramp, not a straight line, plan on investing in PR a minimum of 16 months before your IPO – the longer, the better the pay-off. Involve your PR agency with your investor relations firm well in advance so they can build trust and collaboration and work as a team.
Crisis: PR Experts Needed
If you’re in crisis, and you don’t already have a PR firm or a crisis management plan, then you definitely need a PR agency with experience in crisis communications. Crisis management is very specific to your situation, and the stakeholders will frequently determine the who you choose as a PR team. If you’re challenge is regulatory, a PR team with experience in the regulatory environment is critical, as is a PR team who can evaluate the situation quickly, and act fast. An experienced crisis communications expert will be able to guide you through the process over the course of days, weeks and even months – because getting through the crisis is one thing, but repairing your reputation, to get things back on track, is another.
PR is a serious endeavor with serious potential to change a company’s future. Ensuring you find a firm that has experience in exactly what you need means finding an agency who has moved the needle and elevated companies from one phase of growth to the next. Ultimately, finding a PR firm with experience relevant to you starts with knowing where you want to end up.